Repairing Balky or Binding Pocket Doors
This procedure includes guidance on repairing balkiness or binding of apocket door. This includes work on a door that may be stuck in its pocket, thatbinds when being moved, or that resists movement or is balky when being moved.It may also be applied to pocket doors that will not slide completely into thepocket. Work may also require removing the doors and replacing the rollers.
1. A pocket door that is stuck may be the result of
the door being nailed in place, debris clogging the
door track, warped studs in the pocket, or a
damaged floor track. The door may also be warped,
off the floor track, or off the top guide inside
the pocket. These procedures can also be applied
to a door that will not slide completely into
2. Balkiness in top hung pocket doors usually results
from rollers that need oiling. Balkiness may be
eliminated by exposing the rollers so that they may
3. Binding is usually caused by vibration or house
settlement, a loose or warped stop molding, or
4. A door that is balky or will not move at all may
result from disconnected, broken, missing, or loose
rollers. In this situation, the door will need to
be removed and the rollers repaired or replaced.
5. A pocket door binds on track, balks, or travels
noisily is often a result of debris inside pocket,
floor settlement, or rollers that are dirty, rusty,
misaligned, broken or missing.
A. Top-hung pocket doors are unique because of their hardware.
1. There are two types of hanging hardware for pocket
a. Single roller type: Has one roller (front and
back) and makes use of one metal track.
b. Side by side roller type: Has two rollers
(front and back) that move along on matching
wood tracks on either side of the roller
2. Unlike pocket doors with a bottom track, top hung
doors have a retractable metal or wood finger
mounted at rear edge of door called a rear stop.
This stop must be released for door to clear pocket
A pocket door assembly in good working condition is free
from decay and structurally sound. It is effortlessly
smooth sliding and properly aligned. The pocket doors
stop precisely when closed and are easily retrieved from
pocket. The door latches crisply and should not rattle
between latch and stops when closed.
A. Wood block and broom handle to make clearance guide
B. Replacement plaster and lath (if wall must be removed)
C. Wood wedges and shims
D. Finish nails
E. Aerosol lubricant with plastic spray nozzle such as WD40,
F. Replacement rollers
G. Cleaning solvent for metal rollers
H. Cloths for wiping solvent
I. Household oil
J. Replacement sheave and roller and wood blocking (if
A. Claw hammer
B. Drum rasp attached to drill
C. Broom or vacuum with long handled attachment
E. Saw to trim old floorboards (if needed)
I. Tools for removing molding (if needed)
J. Carpenter's tools to remove casing and re-secure
K. Set-up for laying door in horizontal position during
To determine roller type, shine flashlight up into track
opening above door. See above for descriptions of roller types.
A. Protection: Mask or cover adjacent surfaces and
permanent equipment during repair and maintenance.
Coverings must be adhered without adhesive tape or nails.
DO NOT USE impervious sheeting that produces
ERECTION, INSTALLATION, APPLICATION
For a Door Nailed Shut In-Place:
1. Inspect for toenailing at door edge and for stop
piece nailed into track at top or bottom.
2. Carefully remove nails and/or stop.
B. For Warped Studs in Pocket:
1. If stud in question is one nearest to opening,
carefully push it back using a wedge against door.
Protect door surface and do not force.
2. If binding of stud(s) occurs deeper in pocket, it
will be necessary to go through wall to free the
door. NOTE: THIS MAY CAUSE UNNECESSARY DAMAGE TO SURROUNDINGMATERIALS.
a. Make a clearance gauge, cut a block of wood to
size of width of opening between door and
b. Attach wood to a broom handle.
c. Stick clearance gauge into socket to determine
the location of the offending stud.
d. Remove wall surface on side of problem, if
known. Remove less conspicuous side if
e. Shave offending stud with drum rasp attached
f. Repair wall surface as required.
For Debris Clogging Track:
1. Begin by rocking door slowly out of pocket.
2. Support door while scraping underneath to clear
3. While door is out of pocket, clean track in pocket
with broom or vacuum with long handled attachment.
For a Damaged or Faulty Floor Track:
1. If track is bent and battered, realign with hammer
2. If floor boards have shifted so close as to bind
the track, carefully trim back floor boards or
replace with narrower boards that match wood
species, age, and grain orientation.
3. If track is misaligned in the opening between
floorboards, take track up and relay it correctly
in the center of opening. Shim under track if it
is not level. Then, adhere realigned track to
4. If track is misaligned inside door pocket:
a. Remove metal stop in top of door frame.
b. Slide door all the way across opening. Try to
work from outside straightening and tacking
track in place inside pocket.
c. If this is not possible, then wall surface
must be removed to gain access to the pocket.
For a Door that has Jumped the Floor Track:
Lift and rock door back onto track.
For a Door that has Become Detached from the Top Guide:
1. Wiggle door to get it back on track.
2. Use a metal rule against top guide to ease door out
3. If top guide appears warped, try to shim warp back
into alignment. NOTE: WALL SURFACE AROUND AREA MAY HAVE TO BE REMOVEDTO REPAIR TOP GUIDE.
For Binding Due to Vibration or Settlement:
NOTE: THIS PROBLEM USUALLY AFFECTS THE HEIGHT OF THE DOOR AND MAY BEREPAIRED BY ADJUSTING THE ROLLER HEIGHT.
1. If door is too low and dragging floor, shim under
door to keep it 1/4" above floor; raise door by
turning adjustment screw at base of roller
2. If door is too high, turn screw in opposite
direction from that used to raise door.
For a Loose or Warped Stop Molding:
1. If merely loose, re-nail properly.
2. If warped, remove and attempt re-nailing.
3. If molding cannot be straightened, it may have to
be replaced (see 06440-05-R for guidance on
repairing warps in wood wall ornament).
For a Warped Door:
NOTE: A WARPED DOOR IS NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO REPAIR.
1. Move stop molding to accommodate warp in door.
2. Loosen by gently rocking the door while pulling out
3. If this does not work, carefully push back studs
nearest the opening by using a wedge against the
door. PROTECT THE DOOR SURFACE.
4. If it still does not move, it will be necessary to
go through the wall and loosen the door by
inserting shims between door and studs.
5. Once door is freed and is still salvageable, try
shaving the studs in the pocket at the point of
6. If the door is badly warped, it will need to be
For Balkiness or Doors that Resist Movement:
NOTE: TO PROPERLY EXPOSE ROLLERS, DOOR MUST BE COMPLETELY REMOVEDFROM POCKET.
1. Release rear stop by pulling door out as far as it
2. Insert screwdriver or piece of stiff cardboard and
flip up stop.
3. Proceed by pulling door completely from pocket.
4. Oil rollers using an aerosol lubricant with plastic
5. Slide door back into pocket and reattach stop.
6. For Side by Side Rollers:
a. If door has side by side rollers hung on a
wooden track, there is usually an access panel
and removable track section.
b. Locate access panel and remove track section.
c. Reach through hole above door to unscrew
flange that attaches roller assembly to top of
door. Remove roller through access panel.
d. Remove other roller accordingly.
e. If two doors must be removed, the second door
can be removed by following the same
procedure, on the other side.
f. If no access panel is found,
1) Remove stop, jamb, and wood track on one
2) If roller still cannot be unscrewed,
remove other side of upper track.
For single roller type:
a. Remove casement molding, stop, and jamb on
side opposite track mounting.
b. Slip out door and roller assembly intact.
c. If roller cannot clear track, it must be
unscrewed from top of door.
8. If rollers or track are loose or disconnected, re-
9. If track or rollers are broken or missing, they
must be replaced (see below).
10. If rollers are dirty or rusty, clean and oil them.
To Repair or Replace Rollers:
1. Remove doors. (This will probably require two
people). One person must push up on door while
other person swings door out from bottom.
2. If door is stuck at top, remove stop molding on
less conspicuous side.
If rollers are misaligned, broken, or missing they must
Choose rollers suitable for the weight of
the door. Use wood blocking as required in mortise for
fitting new sheave. NOTE: NEW ROLLERS ARE USUALLY SMALLER.